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Digital agility can be understood as the ability to adopt, apply, and leverage new technology and digital tools in a flexible and timely manner. This notion has been embraced by numerous businesses and organisations to strengthen their competitiveness and chances of success. More traditional sectors such as the education sector can equally benefit from applying this concept. Investing in digital agility pays off in numerous ways and will be inevitable and essential for the 21st-century classroom.
The pandemic has taught us however that education systems around the world, such as that of Vietnam, struggled to pivot swiftly to remote teaching and learning, at least initially.
Now that many schools have reopened and learners are gradually returning to their classrooms, we cannot risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Much progress and effort have been made by teachers, learners, and schools to become more digitally agile, and the international education community should be mindful of the lessons learned from this emergency.
Looking at the future, how can we embrace the best of both worlds for the long term, blending the strengths of in-person education with the opportunities that remote learning offers? We are happy to share some insights from Vietnam.
The future is blended
After two years of working largely remotely, everyone intrinsically knows and more importantly feels the value of in-person education. The sense of community and belonging are key motivational factors, and in-person education offers a level of interaction that is hard to replicate through the barrier of a screen. These dynamics need to be highlighted and leveraged when returning to in-person classes.
To this end, and within the context of the partnership between The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) and VVOB – education for development in Vietnam, VVOB is invested in learning through play and process-oriented child monitoring as effective approaches to supporting teachers, school leaders and education officials to create enabling physical learning environments for rich learning experiences and holistic development.
“While teachers learn how to implement the observation scales in the classroom, and how to measure children’s wellbeing and involvement, what we end up creating are also teachers who are more reflective and agile in the classroom.”
– Kelsey Carlton, Strategic Education Advisor VVOB, on process-oriented child monitoring
That being said, digital transformation is high on the MOET’s agenda for the coming years. There is a gap between the highly digitalised world and the current classroom experience. Addressing that gap starts with digital literacy and accessibility. Teachers and learners need the right skills to make this transition happen and they need to have access to the right equipment and tools to hone those skills.
Distance learning also offers significant benefits and opportunities when it comes to making education more equitable and inclusive. The MOET prioritises ensuring equality in access to quality education for disadvantaged groups, learners living in remote, rural areas or densely populated neighbourhoods, ethnic minorities, learners with disabilities and economically challenged groups. Technology allows us to involve these groups in ways that are impossible or even unimaginable in the paradigm of only traditional in-person classes.
In its work, VVOB puts a spotlight on ethnic minorities, learners living in mountainous areas or densely populated industrial areas. Using technology both in the classroom and in teachers’ professional development trajectories, innovations that foster equity and inclusion are scaled up in Vietnam’s education system.
“I am very impressed with the Digital Literacy training course because I learned how to use online learning tools in Teacher Professional Development activities of the school. After the training, the school can promote online learning anytime, anywhere. It is very convenient and effective in today’s digital age.”
– Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy, vice principal of To Vinh Dien primary school, Son Tra district, Da Nang, Vietnam
The future is communal
Teachers, school leaders and education officials need (and receive) increased autonomy to efficiently address their practical professional learning needs. But increased autonomy does not necessarily lead to isolation or individualisation. It promotes innovation, and creativity and invites educators to build strong networks to exchange among peers via professional learning communities (PLCs). Here too, digital technology can open new ways of collaboration, inspiration and exchange that have been previously unheard of.
Setting out their own pathways, communicating with peers close and far, and accessing and processing information from around the globe… lifelong learning has never been more attainable and exciting.
“In the e-course on how to facilitate an online PLC, I worked with different learning tools and gained many useful experiences in online learning. The online PLC allowed me to share my knowledge with other colleagues and learn from their experiences as well. It allowed for peer exchange and offered time for joint reflection, similar to in-person professional development. The course also improved my digital skills, which is good for my future.”
– Educator from Thai Nguyen province, participant in the e-course on PLC facilitation, Vietnam
The future is changing
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said it 2500 years ago: “The only constant in life is change”, and so also a Vietnamese proverb goes: “The stars have moved away from their past locations”. The pandemic was a global and painful example, but also on a regional or local scale, we can expect ever-changing circumstances and challenges. Vietnam is one of the top five countries most vulnerable to climate change effects, and it is predicted that storms, flooding, and other extreme weather will lead to more school disruptions.
An agile mind and digital agility skills can help us to cope with changing circumstances. Not only to address crises, but certainly also to leverage new opportunities, to be more future-proof, and to embrace a more equitable and inclusive education system.